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Lee Swanson Research Update

Omega-3s Show Potential to Protect against Brain Trauma

September 4, 2012

The potential benefits of omega-3s to reduce the long-term effects of brain trauma may be optimized by early administration "in the emergency department or sooner," says a new report.

Writing in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, Michael Lewis, MD, Parviz Ghassemi and Joseph Hibbeln, MD, provide what they claim is the first report of the specific use of omega-3s following severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).

"Although further research is needed to establish the true advantage of using omega-3 fatty acids, our experience suggests that benefits may be possible from aggressively adding substantial amounts of omega-3 fatty acids to optimize the nutritional foundation of severe TBI patients," they wrote.

"An optimal nutritional foundation must be in place if the brain is to be given the best opportunity to repair itself."

Interest in the potential of omega-3 fatty acids to reduce brain trauma has been increasing, from both a military (battle injury) and civilian (sports-related head injuries) perspective.

In 2010, the US Institute of Medicine identified omega-3, along with antioxidants, as some of the ingredients to be studied for their beneficial effects on neurotrauma.

Lewis, Ghassemi and Hibbeln present a case study of a teenager who suffered a severe brain injury in a motor vehicle accident. Ten days after the accident, the teenager received supplemental omega-3s. The doses used were 9,756 mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and 6,756 mg DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

"The patient began therapy that gradually led to cognitive and physical improvements," wrote Dr. Lewis and his co-workers. "Notably, the patient was given permission and attended his high school graduation three months after the injury to receive his diploma. He was discharged to home four months after the injury."

Researchers noted that this was a one-off study and that "further research is needed to establish the true advantage of omega-3 fatty acids."

The American Journal of Emergency Medicine; Published online ahead of print.

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